The door closed behind Jennifer Higdon. She was in the office of her college conducting professor, Robert Spano, seeking advice about what to do. She had just heard back from the Curtis Institute of Music - they had accepted her application for graduate studies, but so had other music schools. She needed guidance. "I'm not letting you out of here," Spano said, until she agreed to accept the spot from Curtis.
“Kind of incredible, isn’t it?” says Jennifer Higdon. She has won a Pulitzer and a Grammy, her orchestral work blue cathedral has been performed more than 500 times, she is professor of composition at the Curtis Institute of Music, and is one of the world’s most-performed living classical composers. But when she arrived at college, she hadn’t heard of Igor Stravinsky. “I knew nothing,” she said.
Curtis Institute of Music composition student TJ Cole is only 21, but she already has a string of impressive commissions under her belt. Last year she was chosen to write a piece of music based on the Free Library's 2015 One Book, One Philadelphia selection - Orphan Train, a novel by Christina Baker Kline.
It’s the story of 91-year-old Vivian, who lost her family as a child, and 17-year-old Molly, a foster child who also knows what it’s like to be alone and unwanted.
After violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1994, she was invited to perform at the Cape and Islands Chamber Music Festival (now the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival). At a rehearsal there, she confessed to the violist she was to perform with that she had never before performed the popular Halvorsen Passacaglia for violin and viola (based on music of Handel). The violist, Roberto Díaz, then admitted the same thing to her.
When Stanford Thompson left Philadelphia with a degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, the talented trumpeter had a myriad of career options that could have landed him in any city in the world. Lucky for us, after a few detours, he's back here in the City of Brotherly Love.
Flutist Patrick Williams’ love of music started young. Classical music was omnipresent in his childhood home, with his parents encouraging him to pursue it as a career and way of life. Williams learned how to play the piano at age five, and picked up the flute and violin a couple years later. The other instrument fell to the side when Williams decided to focus all of his talent and efforts on the flute. It worked out well. His first public performance was at the 1998 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Japan.
The Franklin Project is a new, national initiative aiming to set up a year of service as a rite of passage for America’s young adults in a variety of fields. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the Curtis Institute of Music joined the initiative with the launching of the first ArtistYear Fellowship Program, a pilot program with three recent graduates who dedicate a year of service to the Greater Philadelphia community - with the goal of becoming professional artist citizens.
When Roberto Diaz graduated from being principal violist of The Philadelphia Orchestra to president of the Curtis Institute, you could easily assume that one of the city's most charismatic performers would be mostly found behind a desk. Instead, The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns finds him preparing to premiere Jennifer Higdon's Viola Concerto, just one of the 70 to 80 other engagements he'll play in the coming year.
Tessa Seymour is in her final year at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she was selected out of hundreds to fill the only spot for a cellist the year she applied. In addition to an unparalleled legacy of greatness, Curtis also offered her the personalized instruction she craved that a large r conservatory could never have offered.
The nationally syndicated public radio program From the Top features gifted young classical musicians from all over the country. They’re always super talented - and often very amusing as they chat with host Christopher O'Riley - which all adds up to great radio. More than 250 public radio stations broadcast the show.